You know the ones: those gyms who have instantly recognizable logos, unmistakable choreography and/or a name that’s known all over the cheer world. Many of the most successful gyms in the industry get there by cultivating a strong brand that suits their product perfectly. To find out how to build a massively effective brand, we spoke with three gyms who’ve done just that: Maryland Twisters, California All-Stars and Top Gun. See our first installment with Tara Cain of Maryland Twisters!
Branding Case Study #1: Maryland Twisters
Maryland Twisters have been around for 15 years, with Tara Cain acting as owner for the last 10 years. The gym didn’t have branding prior to Cain taking it on. Maryland Twisters now has two locations, with about 600 athletes on teams.
How did you come up with the gym name? A bunch of us were just sitting at a table in a restaurant when we formed the company, trying to think of different terms that sounded familiar in the cheerleading world. We were really good at tumbling at the time, and most of our athletes could twist. Twisters just kind of evolved because of the tumbling skills of our athletes. We added Maryland when we started traveling, and realized that everyone we were competing against were from different states. We wanted to represent Maryland.
How did you come up with your colors and logo? When Maryland Twisters was born, it was under different ownership; I was just the cheer director at the time. The colors were royal blue, green, silver and white. As we started competing more, we started hating the color scheme on the floor. It was distracting, so we changed the green out for black.
How do you use social media to further your brand? I have a social media director and a marketing person on staff. In social media, you want to reinforce your brand and your message. We have Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and our website. My social media people are on there every single day—whether it’s a contest we’re promoting at the gym, an athlete we’re highlighting or just reinforcing who we are, there’s a message being put out there on a daily basis.
How much does the pro shop/merchandise play into building a brand? Part of having a pro shop is advertising your business. Your goal would be to sell as many products as you can that will reinforce the message of who you are. If I see a Twisters logo on someone’s car while I’m driving down I-95 in Connecticut, it blows my mind. That’s what you want: your brand to be out there as often as possible, because that’s free advertising. Whether it’s T-shirts or pencils or notebooks or iPhone covers, you want to constantly have your logo or the name of your company on everything that you sell.
Have you had any problems with imitators or copycats? A horrible experience, and it costs me a lot of money. There are a lot of people in this industry who don’t have their name trademarked, which I do. It costs a couple hundred dollars to get your logo and your name trademarked. For example, F5 is a very well-known team of mine, and people think they can sell iPhone covers with F5 on it, but I have that trademarked for everything in this industry. Nobody else has the rights to use it without paying me a royalty.
How do you stop it? I send a cease-and-desist, and then I have to sick my attorney on them. Most of the time the vendor backs off or shuts it down, but it’s a pain in the butt dealing with these people. I think a lot of gyms forget that they need to get an attorney and protect their brand.
How important is branding in the overall picture? If you’re happy being in a very small gym, working day-to-day operations without having any long-term goals, you don’t need to invest the time and money. But if you want to take your gym to the next level—grow it and franchise it and have it nationally recognized—then branding is everything. You have to have it as one of the biggest parts of the business plan.